Thermaltake BlacX SATA Hard Drive USB Docking Station Review
Installation, Performance and Final Thoughts
Thermaltake boasts that the BlacX devices are truly easy to install and compatible with most major operating systems. As with most USB devices, simply plugging in the BlacX was enough to get the unit up and running and no drivers were required on Windows XP, Vista or Mac OS X. When you do plug in a hard drive, the OS will detect a new removable storage device, give it a letter to access it and then you are basically finished. Use the drive as you would any other external storage device.
Installing a hard drive in the BlacX, either standard 3.5" desktop size or the smaller, 2.5" notebook size, is incredibly easy. Removing it is also easy as the unit supports hot swapping allowing you to just take the drive out and replace it with a different one without rebooting. Many people will probably warn you that just ripping any external drive out of a USB port, or a dock, is risky without doing the "safely remove hardware" step that Windows offers. I would agree - this process simply makes sure all the disk writes are finished and any files that might be open using it are addressed.
While I knew we couldn't expect to see full SATA speeds, I was curious to see how much of the theoretical top speed of the USB 2.0 spec we could get. With up to 480 Mbps, or 60 MB/s, a hard drive in the BlacX can be very quick if the hardware allows it.
Using the Thermaltake BlacX for your primary storage drive might not be your best choice, especially if you are using it for things like a video or photo editing. However, as a backup medium the BlacX will excel. Also, if you are like me, and just want to be able to QUICKLY swap out hard drives that you might have sitting around for random storage or transferring data from place to place.
I didn't have any major problems with the Thermaltake BlacX though I did notice a small incompatibility between the dock and my USB hub; having the BlacX attached to it caused the hub to "flash" and lose all my USB connections and "re-find" them every 10-20 seconds. Obviously that was too damn annoying to deal with (you can only get some revisions of the same printer installed after all) so I just got a cable extender and ran it to the back of the PC. I didn't face any other complaints after that.
As I mentioned earlier, the spinning nature of the platters in a full size 3.5" hard drive could be an issue for data security as any hard drive vendor would tell you. I would recommend waiting for the discs to stop spinning before pulling the hard drive completely out of the Thermaltake BlacX just to be safe.
Pricing and Availability
The Thermaltake BlacX can currently be found on our pricing engine for about $32 - a pretty good deal by my standards. A quick search found several places with stock on the BlacX so you can pick it up now if you want. There is a second Thermaltake BlacX model coming out, known as the BlacX SE that adds a four port USB 2.0 hub to the device; hopefully I'll be able to play with one of those soon as well.
Final Thoughts - and a BONUS for you!
The usage I have gotten out of this Thermaltake BlacX in just the past two weeks has made it well worth the meager $35 investment required to purchase one. Any user that finds themselves constantly on the lookout for extra storage, temporary or permanent, or even if you have some extra internal SATA hard drives sitting around that you'd like to get some use out of, the BlacX makes a perfect fit. Installation is easy, usage is straight forward and the price is right.
Now for that bonus! Thermaltake sent us an extra one of these and rather than horde it for ourselves, I am going to give our readers and our community a chance to win it. All you have to do is make a post in this thread of our forums and you are automatically entered. No post counts, nothing at all. Get in here and enter!
After our very popular Thermaltake BlacX review was posted last week, we decided to give away a free one to a lucky PCPer member that posted in this thread in our Storage Forum. Well, the end of the contest is here and the winner is....
Congrats to him and we'll be in touch with him soon to get all the necessary information. I'm sorry we didn't have enough to give away to everyone, but don't worry, we'll be having more contests here at PC Perspective very soon.
In other news, several people expressed interest in see the BlacX at work with one of the WD Raptor X drives with the window. Ask and you shall receive!
Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on external HDD enclosures and anything else you might need: